Exactly Right

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This is what happened, one year ago.

E and I were going to take a bath together.  She is eight and I know the days are limited that she will want to take a bath with her mom.  So I take it whenever it comes.  We are getting in the tub and something comes up about breasts.

How are you going to feel when you get your breasts?  I ask her.

I will just have a transplant, she responds.

Remember: she is eight.   What she means is:  I will have them removed.  And then it comes.  The conversation, the words that change everything.  She wants to be a boy, she tells me.  She has kept it a secret for two years.  (Translation: a long time.) Can she have a breast transplant and then walk around without a shirt, like a boy?  Can she wear boxers?  What about her name?  It says E on her birth certificate – is that permanent?  She wants a boy’s name.  She has one picked out.

Why didn’t you tell me before?  I ask her. We’ve talked about this before.  I am calm, very even.  She is on the verge of tears and shaking.

Because you always say I’m your girl.

Does it bother you when I say that?

Yes and no. she says.

I get it.   I get exactly what she means.

She begs me not to tell Daddy.  Not to tell her brother.  She is choking on her tears. I am staying very calm.  It’s not like me, really – I emote.  But I can tell that this conversation, this moment is going to define us and I have to be okay with what she is saying.  I have to let her know that I am someone she can talk to about this.  I have to just accept what she is saying.

Here’s where I lose it, at the very end:

Mommy, you know how you always say that I’m exactly the kind of girl you like?  That I’m the exact right kind of girl for you?  Am I still, Mommy?

The tears come from both of us and she swims her little self over to me.  We hug each other.  I tell her she is exactly right for me.

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